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University Update

University Update

University Update header
July 18, 2017
To: All SDSU Faculty and Staff
From: President Sally Roush
Provost and Senior Vice President Chukuka S. Enwemeka
Vice Presidents Mary Ruth Carleton, Tom McCarron and Eric Rivera
Vice President and Dean of Graduate Affairs Stephen Welter

University Update

During this summer season, we write to review our community’s recent achievements and to look ahead to the next steps we will take together. We are grateful to former President Elliot Hirshman for guiding our collective efforts for six years; we send our best wishes on his new presidency at Stevenson University. We will continue to raise our standards of excellence at SDSU. The new academic year promises to be a memorable one.

Student Success

This spring we held the university’s 118th Commencement – a celebration of our 10,000 graduates and their accomplishments that focused attention on the critical role that SDSU and its alumni play in San Diego’s economic vitality and quality of life. We hosted 50,000 visitors at eight ceremonies over four days on our two campuses. Echoing the generosity of our alumni and friends, members of the Class of 2017 donated $55,000 to establish a scholarship endowment for future Aztecs. Nearly half of all graduating seniors at SDSU-Imperial Valley made gifts.

Each class is raising the bar for those that follow; this fall’s freshman class is the highest-achieving and most diverse in university history. The average high school GPA of 3.74 is the best, standardized test scores are higher and we are awarding a record number of SDSU Merit Scholarships to top local students. 

New student orientations began last week, and we are welcoming over 8,000 new freshmen and transfer students – and about 7,000 parents and guests – at 20 orientation sessions.

At the graduate level, our programs are examining current strengths and exploring opportunities to develop curriculum in new and emerging directions. 

Student Success Programs

To improve academic success, reduce the time-to-degree and battle “sophomore slump,” we are piloting aspects of our new Sophomore Success Program in the fall with full rollout in fall of 2019. The program will enhance advising and career counseling for sophomores; encourage them to get involved with high-impact practices such as study abroad, undergraduate research or leadership training; and require non-local students to live on campus. We are seeking approvals for a new 850-bed freshmen residence hall on the west side of campus, next to Chapultepec, to free up university-affiliated apartments and suites for the residential aspect of our Sophomore Success Program.

With the combined efforts of all divisions, a five-year decline in summer enrollment has been reversed as the number of full-time-equivalent summer students increased nearly 20 percent. We enhanced course offerings, increased marketing, published spring and summer schedules concurrently and identified funding to help cover the cost of summer tuition and fees for 500 low-income sophomores and juniors. Increasing summer enrollment also will help students earn their degrees in a timely manner.

To increase opportunities for undergraduate research, associate professor of psychology Lisa Kath was selected as director of Undergraduate Research. The Summer Undergraduate Research Program provided $150,000 across six colleges to fund summer research with faculty mentors.

In graduate research, we piloted a one-day workshop and a four-week session to develop students’ grant-writing knowledge and skills.

Our internship and mentoring programs are helping our students to explore career paths and be job-ready at graduation. The number of student internship placements increased 64 percent in the past year, while the number of students matched with mentors increased 57 percent.

Faculty and Staff

Of the 66 searches for tenure-track faculty positions activated this academic year, 48 have been successfully completed and two are still active. Successful hires were made into the three remaining Areas of Excellence in 2016-17; offers were accepted in Digital Humanities and Global Diversity (five), the Smart Health Institute (three) and Blue Gold: Mitigating the Effects of Water Scarcity (one). 

In the coming year, we will have 80 active searches. We have hired 223 tenure-track faculty members in the last four years. 

Our researchers brought in $134.3 million in external funding last year – a 3.4 percent increase in total funding and an 11 percent increase in the number of awards – during a challenging federal grant environment.

Among recent research highlights, biology professor Sandy Bernstein has received a prestigious NIH MERIT award that will help fund his research into the role of mutant myosin genes in skeletal muscle disease and cardiomyopathy for up to 10 years. Sandy joins fellow SDSU MERIT awardees Mark Sussman from our Department of Biology and Phil Holcomb from our Department of Psychology.

History professor Kathryn Edgerton-Tarpley received a Fulbright award to do research in China on historical responses to famine, and three students or recent graduates also were awarded Fulbrights.

Mary Ann Lyman-Hager, director of our Language Acquisition Resource Center, and assistant dean Tanis King Starck were among those honored recently with lifetime achievement awards in their fields.

The Campaign for SDSU

The university has just wrapped up its first comprehensive fund-raising campaign, which exceeded its $750 million goal by raising over $800 million for scholarships, programs, and faculty and staff support. We announced the final number of $815.2 million on Friday during an all-campus celebration. Our faculty and staff gave generously – $88 million total. Alana Nicastro, an alumna and former adjunct professor in our School of Communication, recently made a pledge and gift of $260,000 to establish an endowed scholarship for graduate students who are presenting research at national and international conferences. 

Facilities Construction and Development

Trader Joe’s recently opened in South Campus Plaza, and several other stores and restaurants are in the planning and development stages. The adjacent Campus Green open space is also complete. 

The student housing at South Campus Plaza has been certified as LEED Silver for its sustainable practices, such as sophisticated lighting controls and an automated heating and cooling system. The university has approved its new Climate Action Plan, which lays out campus-wide environmental goals, including LEED Silver standards for new construction and major renovations and achieving operational carbon neutrality by 2040 and complete carbon neutrality by 2050. 

The renovation of the Tenochca residence hall housing tower is underway; it will be followed by replacement of the Tula/Tenochca conference and community space.

With the future of the Qualcomm Stadium site still dynamic, SDSU is evaluating options for a home for our top-25 football team as well as for more space for student housing, research, and technology transfer facilities.


It was an exciting spring for our athletics’ teams. Our water polo team won its conference and finished in the top 25, our track and field team sent 10 student-athletes to the NCAA finals, our baseball team won the conference tournament and played in the postseason, and our men’s and women’s golf teams also competed in the postseason.


Our budget outlook remains stable, and we finished the 2016-17 fiscal year with the budget balanced. We anticipate another balanced budget for 2017-18, subject to the outcome of collective bargaining of the open contracts.

The Legislature’s final 2017-18 base allocation of an additional $184.3 million to The California State University system, along with a tuition increase approved by the CSU Board of Trustees, allows SDSU to fund additional state university grant, employee compensation increases and mandatory increases in health, dental and retirement benefits. After funding mandatory costs, SDSU is able to provide $5 million more from our base budget for enrollment growth of 100 resident students; support of strategic initiatives, such as tenure-track faculty hiring and graduate fellowships; and meeting critical support needs.

As a result of revenue from strong non-resident enrollment and other initiatives, we are allocating one-time funding of $19 million to invest in our people, our programs and facilities.  Budget funding details are here.  

In Appreciation

We are grateful for the dedication of all members of our university community that is moving SDSU forward as a major public research university dedicated to excellence in teaching, research and creative activities. Your hard work, creativity and collaborations – along with the support of our alumni and community members – are shaping the future for our students and for our university. We wish you all a productive and enjoyable summer.

Past University Updates may be found at

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